Photo Credit: Eugene Chan There is a major trend towards being more eco-conscience and developing responsible brands throughout North America today. The big question for commercial real estate investors in Alberta, Canada is how will this affect the market and future investment returns. Between Neil Young, the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking, there have been numerous and often very passionate debates about Alberta's energy industry which has highlighted a trend in concern over the environment and health. So how will this impact the future of the province's property industry and returns for investors. Perhaps the biggest flap in the media recently has been a result of musician Neil Young's anti-oil sands tour and comments that ruffled more than a few feathers among locals, journalists, Alberta business owners, and energy executives. There is also the current uproar in the foothills with Lethbridge residents protesting new fracking plans. Here kids and their families have been going door to door with petitions and hitting Facebook to rally opposition to drilling by Goldenkey Oil out of fear of side effects, even though the end product could be a healthier alternative. The Keystone XL pipeline also continues to be a hot and sensitive topic. In the U.S., a new report suggests that approving the pipeline will not negatively affect the environment, suggesting approval should be coming. However, investigative reporters have also recently claimed to uncover emails and secret collaborations between the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and environmental activists aimed at stalling and derailing plans like this. Regardless of how these individual situations turn out, there is no denying that coerced or not, there is a much broader trend toward being more conscious of the environment and better business practices. This now incorporates generations of extremely passionate individuals from all walks of life that are serious about forwarding their agenda and voting with their wallets. They are particularly looking to shop with more conscious brands, and live in more sustainable housing. In many cases, they are more than willing to pay higher prices for better products and brands as well. So whether it is government regulations or grassroots movements among consumers, expect this to play a significant role in the local economies and real estate trends. It is unlikely that Alberta's energy sector will feel much of this at all. Even if it did, Calgary and Edmonton have plenty of other economic drivers going for them, including many new entrepreneurial startups being launched.